In The Know: Lawmakers hear predictions on the future of health reform

by | October 27th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the state heard different predictions on when the Supreme Court will rule on challenges to the new health care law, and there remains a strong likelihood that the state will be forced to comply with most or all of the law. OK Policy released a new issue brief showing that the state cost of health care reform are likely to be modest and could yield net savings.

Rep. David Dank, the chair of the legislative task force on tax credits, said coal tax credits are the “poster child for just about everything that is wrong with this system.” Governor Fallin said she was embarrassed by the condition of the Capitol building and wants the state to find money for repairs. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services agreed to pay part of a $1.1M settlement to a young man who was sexually molested at a foster home.

At a panel discussion the legislators, Tulsa-area parents of special needs students criticized a private school voucher program for taking resources from public schools with no accountability. The White House said President Obama’s plan on college loans would allow more than 23,000 current students in Oklahoma to lower their monthly payments. Data analysis of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system has been completed by the Justice Center, and lawmakers will now move on to crafting reforms to reduce crime and incarceration.

Today’s Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s unemployment rate for September 2011, up slightly from the previous month’s rate. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline reports on how Oregon may become the next national health care model for seeking to control costs while improving public health through community care.

continue reading In The Know: Lawmakers hear predictions on the future of health reform

State cost of health care reform likely to be modest and could yield net savings

by | October 26th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (2)

Under the new national health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), one major strategy for providing health insurance coverage to the 50 million Americans who are currently uninsured is an expansion of eligibility in the Medicaid program. Even though the federal government will assume the lion’s share of the costs of insurance for those who gain Medicaid coverage, this expansion has created concern and uncertainty about the impact the law will have on state budgets.

We do not yet have a comprehensive study of the projected costs and savings of the Affordable Care Act for Oklahoma’s state budget. However, as a new OK Policy issue brief shows, most studies of the impact of the Affordable Care Act have concluded that increases to state Medicaid budgets will be modest. National studies from the Urban Institute and projections developed by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority have estimated that state spending on Medicaid may grow by $200 to $800 million between 2014 and 2019 or 2020, depending on various assumptions, while increasing state Medicaid spending by under 10 percent.  The federal government will assume over 90 percent of total costs of expanded Medicaid coverage. To cite the conclusion of the study by John Holahan and Irene Headen, the Urban Institute’s experienced and widely-respected health policy analysts:

continue reading State cost of health care reform likely to be modest and could yield net savings

In The Know: DHS finds money to save child-care subsidy

by | October 26th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that DHS found about $10 million in one-time funding to avoid proposed hikes in child-care subsidy co-payments and lowered assistance to families with developmentally disabled children. OK Policy previously warned about the harm those cuts would do to low-income working families and kids. A state legislator said he intends to file legislation to break up DHS into three separate departments, but a DHS Commissioner argued that would create additional bureaucracy and “run the cost up.” Rep. Mike Shelton wants to remove an exemption from a law mandating liability insurance for day care operators.

The KIPP middle-school in Oklahoma City wants to expand to an elementary school and high school and partner with other inner-city schools to spread its success. The OK Policy Blog explains why higher education remains a strong investment for Oklahomans and the state as a whole. The House Agriculture Committee is heard testimony on recycling and the feasibility of a beverage-container deposit law.

EMSA has used Tulsa’s ambulance fees to subsidize $800,000 in shortfalls for the Oklahoma City division. NewsOK writes that we need thorough, numbers-based analysis, not platitudes, in the tax reform debate. NewsOK also argued against a push by the state Supreme Court to curtail public records posted online.

In today’s Policy Note, an economic historian shows that consumer spending, amplified by government outlays, are what created most growth in the last century, not business investment.

continue reading In The Know: DHS finds money to save child-care subsidy

Higher Education – A better investment than gold

by | October 25th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (3)

This post is by OK Policy intern Emily Callen. Emily is a senior at the University of Tulsa, where she is pursuing a major in Biology and a minor in Economics. A longtime wonk-in-training, Emily has for years been boring her college friends by quoting statistics at parties. 

Photo by flickr user pamhule used under a Creative Commons license.

Last month, Governor Fallin released her plan  to increase by two-thirds the number of students graduating from Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities. At the same time, some Oklahoma lawmakers and other critics are questioning the state’s spending on higher education, arguing that colleges and universities should face the same budget cutbacks as other areas of government and the legislature should limit tuition increases.

Tuition and fees in Oklahoma remain comparatively inexpensive, but we have not avoided the nationwide trend of rising costs at both public and private universities. We certainly should take this trend seriously and work to ensure college is affordable and accessible to students from diverse backgrounds.

Yet even though the cost is rising, the value of a college education remains very high. Oklahoma should maintain strong investments in higher education for several reasons:

continue reading Higher Education – A better investment than gold

In The Know: Alcohol task force disbands after 2 meetings with no recommendations

by | October 25th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the Oklahoma liquor task force is disbanding after only two meetings without any consensus on recommendations for lawmakers. Despite a crumbling state Capitol, a medical examiner’s office so cramped and outdated it lost its accreditation, and other capital needs approaching $1 billion, House Republicans have refused to consider any new bond issuances. Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, and Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, have announced they will seek the Senate minority leader post being vacated by Sen. Andrew Rice.

Writing in The Edmond Sun, Rep. Jason Murphey described this year’s agenda for the Government Modernization Committee, including a request by Republican Speaker-designate T.W. Shannon to study privatizing state assets. Oklahoma City councilman Ed Shadid will introduce a measure to protect gay and bisexual people from discrimination in city offices and hiring. A similar ordinance is being considered in Norman.

A $26 million federal grant will help underprivileged students at 10 Oklahoma City middle schools prepare to attend college. Tulsa Public Schools are implementing a new “value-added” teacher evaluation system required by state law to examine how well teachers are doing in the context of their students’ backgrounds and factors outside of the classroom. The upcoming 2011 Financial Education in Oklahoma Conference will provide information on how to identify and prevent financial cons, scams and frauds.

Today’s Number of the Day is the number of bankruptcy filings in Oklahoma during the 2nd quarter of this year. In today’s Policy Note, economist Nancy Folbre discusses gender differences in economic hardship during the recession.

continue reading In The Know: Alcohol task force disbands after 2 meetings with no recommendations

Upcoming Event: Frauds, Scams and Cons: Protecting Yourself and Your Assets – Wednesday, November 2

by | October 24th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

The 2011 Financial Education in Oklahoma Conference brings together financial education service providers and stakeholders to learn about programs offered in the state, share experiences, and identify new resources for financial education.  This conference is sponsored by the Oklahoma JumpStart Coalition and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Oklahoma City Branch and is titled “Frauds, Scams and Cons: Protecting Yourself and Your Assets through Financial Education.”  The event will take place on Wednesday, November 2nd at the Moore Norman Technology Center South Penn Campus from 9:00am to 4:00pm.

This year’s conference will arm educators, advocates and teachers with the information they need to identify and prevent financial cons, scams and frauds, and ideas for presenting this information to the communities and students they serve.  The conference is designed for: financial educators, teachers, bank and credit union staff, business and civic leaders, and all other individuals interested in improving financial education in Oklahoman.

Click here to register online or contact Annette Phillips at Annette.F.Phillips@kc.frb.org or (405)270-8464 by Tuesday, October 25. The $25 registration fee includes a continental breakfast and lunch buffet.  The event agenda can be accessed here.

 

 

In The Know: School voucher law under scrutiny

by | October 24th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a law that provides public money for special needs students to attend private schools is becoming the center of a growing battle about the overarching issue of school vouchers. An OU sociology professor who studies women’s incarceration said significant corrections reform will not occur unless lawmakers revise the entire criminal code. Senator Tom Coburn called for eliminating federal grants to promote marriage, which are based on a program pioneered by Oklahoma in 2000. The OK Policy Blog previously featured a discussion on this program and whether the state should be supporting marriage.

The executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League explains in NewsOK how not charging sales tax for online purchases puts municipalities and local businesses in a tough spot. Reporters at The Norman Transcript, The Muskogee Phoenix, and Enid News examined the local impact of this loophole. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the state must pay the Mountain View-Gotebo school district $733,000 in property tax reimbursements. Mercy Health, which has revenue of $4 billion and operates 27 hospitals in Oklahoma and surrounding states, has avoided most taxes and financial disclosure requirements by operating as a church.

With its contract about to be renewed, wasteful expenditures by the Emergency Medical Services Authority that provides ambulance service to Oklahoma City and Tulsa are under scrutiny. Oklahoma doctors received more than $6.3 million in payments, meals, or other items from 12 pharmaceutical companies since 2009. An estimated 115,000 Oklahomans currently are caregivers to their sick, infirm or dying loved ones, and their numbers are growing. DHS may be asked to take more oversight of children exposed to illicit drugs, but it is unclear how they will manage an increased caseload without funds for more staff.

The Number of the Day is how many USDA certified organic farms are in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, economist Mark Thoma explains in MSN Money why we have room to spread the wealth without harming efficiency and growth.

continue reading In The Know: School voucher law under scrutiny

The Weekly Wonk – October 21, 2011

by | October 21st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week at OK Policy, we released newly updated fact sheets showing the revenue from “sin taxes” on tobacco, gaming, and the lottery continued to grow throughout the recession. NewsOK also reported on our findings. We attended the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy Fall Forum and shared the comments of five state agency leaders on what they’ve done to continue operating in hard times.

Also this week, we explained how the Congressional Supercommittee tasked with reducing the deficit could affect state budgets. A guest blog by Sara Amberg, a manager at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, warned about a dangerous coming storm of food insecurity in Oklahoma.

On Sunday, we published an op-ed in The Oklahoman about why those who say Oklahoma should get rid of the income tax have a big burden. KRMG spoke with David Blatt about the dangers of adding more tax cuts to the large cuts already approved in recent years.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk – October 21, 2011

In The Know: Exotic pet laws dangerously lacking in Oklahoma

by | October 21st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (2)

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma tops a list of states with inadequate regulations on keeping exotic animals as pets.  Representatives from chambers of commerce around the state told a legislative committee not to eliminate the state income tax.  Governor Fallin reiterated calls to eliminate tax breaks that do not create jobs and stressed the importance of investments in infrastructure and education to Oklahoma’s economy.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe criticized the EPA for moving to develop wastewater standards for natural gas extraction.  Members of a legislative panel examining state laws governing wine and beer sales voted to disband without taking action or making any recommendations for reform.  NewsOK reports that revenue generated by gaming, tobacco and the lottery have shown elasticity in a tough economy.  For the data used in this story, click here to access OK Policy fact sheets on sin taxes as state revenue sources.

Oklahoma applied this week for $60 million in federal ‘Race to the Top’ funds to help early childhood education programs better serve impoverished children.  Sara Amberg of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma highlighted the extent of our state’s severe food insecurity on the OK Policy Blog.  In today’s Policy Note, FamiliesUSA released a paper on how key provisions of the federal health care law set to take effect in 2014 will buoy the economy and bolster family finances.  Today’s Number of the Day is the number of people per square mile in Oklahoma.

continue reading In The Know: Exotic pet laws dangerously lacking in Oklahoma

Guest Blog (Sara Amberg): A forecast we can't ignore

by | October 20th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (1)

Sara Amberg is Manager of Agency Capacity Building of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.

The day before the February 2011 blizzard plowed through the Midwest, I heard a meteorologist report that he had never seen every radar system, every method of weather prediction all pointing to the same outcome.  This is serious, he warned. That turned out to be an understatement. The squall produced record snowfall, paralyzing Eastern Oklahoma and racking up millions in recovery costs. The historic “North American winter storm” now has its own Wikipedia page.

Indicators in the past months all forecast another dangerous storm for Oklahomans – one with a far more devastating outcome.

The USDA’s 2010 report on Household Food Security was released in September. While the nation’s food insecurity rates have declined slightly, Oklahoma’s rates continue to increase. We are officially tied with Arkansas for the highest percentage of families with very low food security.

continue reading Guest Blog (Sara Amberg): A forecast we can't ignore